Bully boyfriend's 'shameful catalogue of abuse' on girlfriend who was 'rock' during prison sentences

John Sullivan
-Credit: (Image: Cleveland Police)

A dad who smashed a plant pot over his partner's head after an argument, broke her nose and threw a full can of drink at her - is back behind bars.

Drug-taking John Sullivan, 31, became violent towards his "rock" who stood by him while he served other prison sentences. The violence was only reported, after Sullivan's own mother, who has a retraining order protecting her from him, called the police.

On Friday, Teesside Crown Court heard that Sullivan's partner was pregnant when she decided to accompany him to Berwick Hills so he could buy some drugs in July 2022. Annelise Haugsted, prosecuting, said that the woman was "struggling" and decided to go back home, when Sullivan swung a bag, which contained at plastic wine bottle, at her face.

"He stood there laughing as her nose was bleeding," Ms Haugsted said, "her nose was bent". Sullivan's victim was treated in hospital for her broken nose.

During an argument about doing the washing in September 2023, Sullivan threw a unopened can he had in his hand, straight at his partner. She was left with "significant bruising" to her leg.

The Middlesbrough court heard that the couple split up and Sullivan's partner moved out. But when she returned to the home at an agreed time on February 2, to pick up some belongings, another argument turned violent.

"She shouted 'wake up you fat c***,' to indicate her presence," Ms Haugsted told the court, "he got up and came towards her. She ran but felt a blow to her head, as he smashed a plant pot over her. It was 10cm by 6cm."

Ms Haugsted said that the woman retaliated and left Sullivan with scratches. "She cowered as he punched her to the head and neck," Ms Haugsted continued, before telling the court that Sullivan apologised.

The woman continued to pack her clothes and the separated couple had a coffee together. But another argument broke out, and Sullivan threw a plastic washing basket at his ex, before things "settled down" and he helped her pack.

On February 3, Sullivan's mother called the police to let them know that he was breaking the restraining order, by visiting her house. The police then went to speak to Sullivan's ex-partner, who "told them about the plant pot and the other violence".

"She said he was on crack and Zopiclone," Ms Haugsted added. Sullivan told the police that he was the victim of domestic violence, and that he had been acting in self-defence.

'Shameful catalogue of abuse'

Sullivan held his head in his hands and cried, as he listened to the court proceedings via video link from Durham prison. He admitted two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm; assault; and breaching a restraining order.

The order was put in place after Sullivan was caught punching and banging on his mum's front door to get inside. He has 40 previous convictions for 89 offences, which include multiple battery convictions; burglary and dangerous driving.

In mitigation, Jonathan Walker said he has been representing Sullivan or a decade and he conceded "that custody is inevitable for this completely shameful catalogue of the abuse of his former partner.

"She has stood by him and she is probably the only reason why he has been able to complete terms of imprisonment and remain offence-free for some periods of time. He's been effectively in isolation in prison with not a single piece of contact from his family - some of whom are deeply embarrassed that he has assaulted the woman they saw as 'his rock'."

Mr Walker said that life in Durham prison has been hard for Sullivan, especially because of his "emotional difficulties". "This relationship is now dead and buried," he added.

Judge Nathan Adams told Sullivan that whilst he "accepted there was verbal abuse on the victim's part, she had stood by you. And you repaid that with violence."

Sullivan, of no fixed abode, was jailed for 19-months. He will serve half of the sentence and the five-months he has spent on remand will be count towards his time.

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